Thursday, May 27, 2010

Suite life at Kenan Stadium includes beer, wine

The University of North Carolina is looking to sell luxury seats in the new Kenan Stadium end zone, and the Tar Heels are using a familiar tactic to draw fans.


Yep, you’re not allowed to take alcohol into Kenan Stadium – wouldn’t want that on a college campus – but to help sell seats in the new end zone, the school will sell beer and wine to donors who can afford seats that start at $750, according to The News & Observer.

It’s a five-story, $70 million project that will rip down the old fieldhouse in Kenan and fill it with upscale seating.

You can’t help but be a bit sad about the coming changes – the old fieldhouse adds to the quaint and historic feel of Kenan. But you have to admit the additions to Kenan in recent decades have made the stadium even more impressive.

The new addition in the endzone should be first-rate as well. But the fact that the school will allow the sales of alcohol there is, well, amusing. And it’s a reminder of the uneasy, and inconsistent, relationship collegiate sports have with alcohol.

A UNC student who can walk home to Teague dorm would be pilloried for heading into the stadium with a can of Budweiser. But an alum who knocks down beers in a suite and then drives back to Greensboro … well, that’s another matter.

By the way, News14 has a story on the new facility here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Woodard back at UNC after not making it to the major leagues

The UNC baseball team is fortunate to have its winningest pitcher ever back in the fold, even if as an assistant coach.

Robert Woodard, who was born in Winston-Salem and raised in Charlotte, had a 34-5 record as a Tar Heel pitcher, including a 22-0 record at Boshamer Stadium. Drafted in the 20th round by San Diego in the 2007 draft, Woodard never made it past Triple A Portland.

In fact, he pitched only three games at the Triple A level - one in 2007 and two in 2008. His ERA for those three games was 21.32. His most success was at Single A Fort Wayne where he posted a 3.25 ERA over 72 innings while posting five wins.

It really goes to show how difficult it is to make it to the big leagues. He was arguably the best pitcher the Heels ever had when he left for the pros. (Although that honor would probably go to Andrew Miller '06 or Dave Lemonds '68.) He was a three-time All-ACC selection and he was the 2006-2007 recipient of the Patterson Medal, given to UNC's most outstanding student-athlete. He also helped lead the Carolina program to national prominence with back-to-back appearances in the College World Series in 2006 and 2007.

"I am very excited to have Robert join our staff. As most know Robert had a very distinguished playing career at UNC," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "But his most important role was being a leader in elevating our program to the national level beginning in 2006. Robert will bring great leadership, experience and knowledge to our program and I am excited that he is starting his coaching career as a Tar Heel."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wears leaving for UCLA a reminder of risk

Roy Williams had success recruiting in California as the head coach at Kansas, and he has continued to mine that state since coming to North Carolina. In fact, Williams had four Californians on his roster last season.

But the transfer of the Wear twins is a reminder that bringing kids from across the country can be risky, especially in an era where players are less loyal than before. The Wears are transferring to UCLA, they announced Tuesday, to be back in their home state. Williams also had another Californian return home when Alex Stepheson left for Southern Cal after the 2008 season.

Stepheson and the Wears weren’t great players at UNC, but the moves are a reminder that it can be tough for kids to adjust to being 2,500 miles from home. And Carolina has had to scramble for bodies with the Wears leaving, a move Williams said caught him totally off-guard.

UNC had rarely signed Californians before Williams arrived, with center Scott Williams of Hacienda Heights being one of the few exceptions.

Duke, too, had Los Angeles product Jamal Boykin depart for California.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canes selling a part of franchise

The Carolina Hurricanes have long needed a local ownership connection, and now apparently, that could happen.

The Sports Business Journal is reporting the Canes have hired Allen and Co. to sell 50 percent of the club. The Canes are owned by Peter Karmanos, and his key partner, Tom Thewes, died two years ago. The News and Observer's Chip Alexander reached Karmanos on the phone Monday, and Karmanos said he had not said "50 percent."

But he did tell Alexander he would prefer a local investor.

"It would make sense to have a partner that lives and works in the Raleigh area," Karmanos said.

The Canes are long past any thought of relocating from Raleigh, but the fact that Karmanos is open to sharing the club is major news. Many have thought the Canes would have benefited in the beginning by having a local investor involved - it simply took a while for Carolina to adapt to its new home and the realities of being in a major collegiate market.

The risk here is that any new owner, particular one from outside the market, could mean changes for the franchise. The sell is coming at a time when Carolina has a strong young core of players and will host the All-Star Game this season. But if half the team is owned by outside investors, and the franchise struggles in future years, there is no telling what that means.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Greensboro can own ACC Baseball Tournament

The College World Series has a home in Omaha, but the ACC Baseball Tournament, by comparison, is a nomad.

The ACC event deserves better. It spent the 2006, ’07 and ’08 years in Jacksonville, Fla., a nice place to play baseball but a long way most parts of the league.

Then the event was scheduled to be in Fenway Park in 2009. But – whoops! – the Red Sox realized the Green Monster was booked that weekend, and had to ask for this year instead. Once the economy tanked, the ACC moved the 2010 tournament to Greensboro for financial reasons while saying that some day, some day it will play the event in Fenway.

The allure of Fenway is obvious, but there’s no way the tournament will draw much interest in New England. Finding a community that can support it – and maybe Greensboro will – makes more sense.

The Triangle should be a great fit, with three teams here and two fine minor league parks. But the event gets overlooked in the market when the Carolina Hurricanes are in the playoffs, as they were last year. The event still drew 36,639 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the ninth-highest total in the event’s history, but there just wasn’t much buzz with the Canes dominating sports talk.

Greensboro makes more sense. The city has now a great minor league park in NewBridge Bank Park and it has a chance to claim this event as its own. That’s what happened with the CWS, with Omaha showing such enthusiasm for the event that others don’t have a chance.

This is Greensboro’s turn to make this an annual affair, which opens Wednesday. And if the city can show the tournament the love it deserves, it should keep it.

Duke, Carolina battling for Doc Rivers' son

Doc Rivers' Boston Celtics club is one victory away from the NBA championship finals but he is most proud that his son recently led his Winter Park (Fla.) High School team to that school's first state title ever.

Duke and Carolina have taken notice of the 6-foot-3 shooting guard who scored 25 points in the state finals and are battling it out for him on the recruiting trail. Rivers, who is a top 10 basketball prospect in the class of 2011, is also considering Kansas and Florida. He earlier decommitted from Florida but Scout.com reports that he has a higher interest in Florida and Duke than Carolina ... and they don't even mention Kansas.

Rivers is listed by most as the No. 2 shooting guard in the country and UNC coach Roy Williams really wants to recruit guys that can shoot, especially after the team's scoring woes last season. Williams can be convincing so I wouldn't count the Tar Heels out. In fact, Rivers decommitted from Florida less than two weeks after Williams visited with him back in late March.